Engineers use math and science to solve problems.
Except, said Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Kelly Cross, when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
But she is working to change that.
“Let’s just take those same problem-solving procedures and apply them to diversity and inclusion,” said Kelly Cross, assistant professor of chemical engineering. “Collecting data, making decisions, improving the process, moving forward, designing an inclusive engineering learning environment.”
Cross recently received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for conducting a regional survey of engineering professors on their thoughts around DEI and for developing a game platform to help professors solve DEI problems on the campus and in real life. Work begins August 1, 2022 on the Gaming Intervention of Values Engineers Need (GIVEN) project, a five-year effort supported by a CAREER award of $600,397. The CAREER Awards are the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award to support early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to advance the mission of their department or organization.
DEI remains a problem in our society, according to a plethora of data that includes the University’s 2019 Climate Survey.
But data on college professors’ beliefs around DEI is less known or understood, Cross said.
“We haven’t had a comprehensive or national survey of diversity and equity (faculty beliefs) in about 20 years,” Cross said, referring to a 2000 study “Does Diversity Make a Difference,” conducted by the American Council on Education and American Association of College Teachers.
Adding to that body of knowledge, Cross said, is something she’s wanted to do since she was a graduate student at Virginia Tech. After completing a master’s degree in materials science and engineering and his doctorate. in engineering training, Cross and a former VT did a pilot study, “Perceptions of diversity in the classroom by engineering teacherson faculty beliefs around DEI while working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“The surprise (of this study) was the lack of knowledge about how to deal with IED issues,” Cross said.
Engineering faculty, while aware of diversity issues, generally lack knowledge and have limited resources to intervene or make changes to engage in DEI efforts, Cross wrote in his award papers. CAREER at the NSF.
To help teachers recognize and deal with these sticky, real DEI situations, Cross again looked at the science.
Cross viewed the game as an educational tool: Cheryl Bodnar, a professor at Rowan University who advises Cross on the GIVEN project, had conducted her own NSF-funded research to investigate the use of online games to teach process safety to chemical engineering students. This study compared data collected from students through an online gambling platform with data collected from a traditional survey, and found that those who participated in online gambling were more interested in learning about safety process.
Cross plans to use a similar gaming platform in the GIVEN project to engage engineering professors in DEI issues and mentor them in potential DEI situations.
“Something’s going on — say, graffiti in the bathroom,” Cross said. “You find this: how do you answer? Or, a student finds it and tells you about it: how do you react?
Based on the response, the game will provide feedback on DEI issues and beliefs, and Cross Hopes, inspire more engineering faculty to engage in the DEI conversation and local campus efforts to improve inclusion .
Cross’ game application would be developed later in the GIVEN project, after the survey and interviews were completed. Engineering professors who complete the survey and participate in a follow-up interview will receive a unique link to access the game app. Their game activity will provide additional data for the GIVEN project and can potentially engage more engineering professors. engineering in the national DEI conversation.
“DEI doesn’t mean you can’t disagree or have a difference of opinion,” Cross said. “For me, I want to start a conversation. We cannot get rid of prejudices, “isms” and xenophobia if we cannot talk to people, if we cannot have a civil conversation. »